General Assembly votes on status of Palestine, recognizing it as state

Sedona Chinn, Crier Staff

On November 29, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinian’s status to “non-member observer state,” with a great majority of member countries recognizing the Palestinian state.

In the vote, only Israel, Canada, and the United States voted against upgrading the Palestinians to the same status as the Vatican. Some countries, including Great Britain and Germany abstained, while permanent Security Council members France, Russia, and China supported Palestine.

The recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state is largely a symbolic action, which does not change the facts on the ground. Palestinians remain internally divided with the Palestinian Authority in control of the West Bank seeking diplomatic solutions while the more militant Hamas is in control of Gaza. Israeli occupation, illegal settlements, and economic depravity will not be reversed by this UN recognition.

However, recognition as a state could allow Palestinians legal opportunities, including bringing Israel to the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses, that were previously unavailable. It remains unclear whether this legal interpretation would hold up and whether the Palestinian leaders would use, or threaten to use this new means.

The implications for the peace process of the successful Palestinian bid for statehood in the United Nations are many, complex, and not necessarily positive. Palestinians argue that this new status, even as a non-member, will strengthen their position in negotiations with Israel on core issues, including settlements, borders, refugees, water rights, and security.

However, Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev said that this move by Palestine had taken the Palestinians and the Israelis out of a negotiation process. The Israeli prime minister’s office similarly condemned the action, saying, “There will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens…By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”

Israel’s responses thus far have been to expedite the approval of new settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well stopping $100 million of taxes collected by the Israeli government on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

The upgrade in UN status for Palestine, pursued by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, after the Israeli assassination of the Hamas leader in Gaza by air strike. The eight days of violence that followed killed 158 Palestinians and 6 Israelis.